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Survey of Medieval Latin


Survey of Medieval Latin

  • Course ID:LATIN 441
  • Semesters:1
  • Department:Classics
  • Course Rank:Honors
  • Teachers:Lionel Yaceczko

Description and Objectives

The period from AD 200–1500 was one of profound linguistic change, as the (Classical) Latin language of the Roman Empire became the (Medieval) Latin of Christendom, a new civilization that arose upon the four cultural pillars of: the Roman Empire, the Northern Barbarians, the Catholic Church, and the Classical tradition. In the process, Europe was forged.

Students of Medieval Latin will read selections from the vast array of Latin: the Vulgate (the Latin Scriptures), liturgical texts and prayers, poems, histories, and hagiographies.

One semester. Offered on occasion. Prerequisite: Intermediate Latin.



These are reference works to be used for a lifetime, and the student is strongly urged to consider that digital versions of reference works lack the essential characteristic of delay, the interval between the time when the question arises in the mind and the time when the question is answered. This is the time period in which the space in the memory where new information will dwell is created. If one definition of learning is the expansion of the capacity for memory and the actual exercise of memory, then digital reference workds skip this essential step  of the learning process.

Course Requirements

Students will be expected to prepare about ten lines of prose per day to translate in class.

In addition to in-class translation, every two or three weeks we will have seminar days, on which we will discuss a text that we have all read. For seminar days students will be expected to read about 20–30 pages of an ancient text in translation.

Students will take six translation exams over the course of the semester. If the student is consistently preparing his daily translations, he should not need to study for these exams.

Twice per semester, students in LAT 221 (Intermediate Latin) or above will take the Morphology Exam. This exam consists of 100 multiple choice questions. The student will be expected to parse any noun, adjective, pronoun, or verb form by analogy with other forms. A student’s score on the Morphology Exam, if higher than his quarter average, will replace his quarter grade. Seniors in advanced Latin must score at least a 90 on the Morphology Exam at some point during their Heights career to be eligible to receive a grade of A- or better for their fourth quarter grade.

Successful Students

  • study Latin at least fifteen solid minutes every day of the week, (that means tunnel vision from 0–15, no distractions, no touching or looking at a phone, not even a bathroom break
  • re-translate, as soon as possible, on the same day, what we have translated together in class, to consolidate and firmly establish new knowledge,
  • seek extra help outside of class, not only from the instructor, who is available before/after school every day, but also from classmates.
  • do synopses and DANS

Additional Resources

Latin DAN

Latin Verb Synopsis

Dickinson College Latin Vocabulary List

• Allen and Greenough’s New Latin Grammar

° a PDF of this and many other useful Latin and Greek language learning texts can be found at

° Digitized version hosted by Tufts University’s Perseus website here

Logeion online Latin and Greek dictionaries

Summer Assignment

The simplest form of the Summer Assignment is this: turn in two DANs and two Synopses per month, on the last day of each month, for a total of six (6) DANs and six (6) Synopses, due on June 30th, July 31st, and August 31st. These should be e-mailed to the instructor.

Official Heights forms for DANs and Synopses may be found at Additional Resources above.

This is the objective.

The goal of the Summer Assignment is to ensure that you either 1.) have mastered the morphology and the base vocabulary of Latin, or 2.) know what exercises are necessary to accomplish this goal by doing these exercises.

In more detail, the Summer Assignment goals for student learning for Advanced Latin courses—which are nothing less than the goals for student learning for Elementary and Intermediate Latin—are below:

• Master the 1,000 most common words in the Latin language. This vocabulary is based on word frequencies in the Latin literature of the first two centuries of either Era. The list, originally compiled by the University of Liège, was digitized by the Classics Department of Dickinson College, and may be found here:

• Master all the morphology of the Latin language:

Nouns: be able to decline all 1st–5th declension nouns.


1st: terra, -ae, f.

2nd masc.: animus, -i, m.

2nd neut.: bellum, -i, n.

3rd: rex, regis, m.

4th: manus, -us, f.

5th: res, rei, f.

Adjectives: be able to decline all adjectives, those of the 1st-2nd declension, and those of the 3rd declension. Be able also to form the comparative degree and superlative degree from the lexical form of an adjective. Be able also to form the positive, comparative, and superlative degrees of adverbs from the lexical form of an adjective.


1st-2nd declension: altus, -a, -um, high; altior, altius, higher, rather high, too high; altissimus, -a, -um, highest, very high (quam altissimus, as high as possible)

alte, highly; altius, more highly, rather highly, too highly; altissime, most highly, very highly (quam altissime, as highly as possible)

3rd declension adjectives: gravis, -e, heavy; gravior, gravius, heavier, rather heavy, too heavy; gravissimus, -a, -um, heaviest, very heavy (quam gravissimus, as heavy as possible)

Pronouns and Demonstratives (collectively considered “demonstratives” for the purposes of doing a DAN): be able to decline all the demonstrative pronouns and adjectives:

• hic, haec, hoc, this (in front of me); the latter

• iste, ista, istud, that (in front of you)

• ille, illa, illud, that (in front of him); the former

• is, ea, id, this/that (an adjective of weaker identity); he/she/it (the most common form of the 3rd person pronoun)

• qui, quae, quod, who/which; that (the relative pronoun)

Verbs: be able to conjugate verbs of all conjugations, 1st–4th as well as irregulars.

The five aspects of a verb are: Person, Number, Tense, Voice, and Mood.

• Person: 1st, 2nd, 3rd

• Number: Singular, Plural

• Tense: Present, Imperfect, Future (the Present System); Perfect, Pluperfect, Future Perfect (the Perfect System)

• Voice: Active, Passive

• Mood: Indicative, Subjunctive, Infinitive, Participle, Imperative

There are thus approximately 172 forms for any regular Latin verb.